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On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner; Dr. Dodd's poem, entitled “ Thoughts in Prison," was lying upon his table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear Johnson's opinion of it: to my surprise, he told me he had not read a line of it. I took up the book and read a passage to him. JOHNSON. “ Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like them.”
I read another passage, with which he was better pleased. He then took the book into his own hands, and having looked at the prayer at the end of it, he said, “ What evidence is there that this was composed the night before he suffered? I do not believe it." He then read aloud where he prays for the King, &c. and observed, “ Sir, do you think that a man, the night before he is to be hanged, cares for the succession of a royal family? Though, he may have composed this prayer then.
then. A man who has been canting all his life, may cant to the last. And yet, a man who has been refused a pardon after so much petitioning, would hardly be praying thus fervently for the King.”
He and I, and Mrs. Williams, went to dine with the Reverend Dr. Percy. Talking of Goldsmith, Johnson said, he was very envious. I defended him, by observing that he owned it frankly upon all occasions. JOHNSON. “ Sir, you are enforcing the charge. He had so much, envy, that he could not conceal it. He was so full of it, that he overflowed. He talked of it to be sure often enough. Now, Sir, what a man avows, he is not ashamed to think; though many a man thinks, what he is ashamed to avow. We are all envious naturally ; but by checking envy, we get the better of it. So we are all thieves naturally; a child always tries to get at what it wants the nearest way: by good instruction
and good habits this is cured, till a man has not even an inclination to seize what is another's; has no struggle with himself about it."
And here I shall record a scene of too much heat between Dr. Johnson and Dr. Percy, which I should have suppressed, were it not that it gave occasion to display the truly tender and benevolent heart of Johnson, who, as soon as he found a friend was at all hurt by any thing which he had “ said in his wrath," was not only prompt and desirous to be reconciled, but exerted himself to make ample reparation.
Books of travels having been mentioned, Johnson praised Pennant very highly, as he did at Dunvegan, in the Isle of Sky. Dr. Percy knowing himself to be the heir male of the ancient Percies, and having the warmest and most dutifal attachment to the noble House of Northumberland, could not sit quietly and hear a man praised, who had spoken disrespectfully of Alnwick Castle and the Duke's pleasure-grounds, espe
2 - Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," edit. 3.
221. 3 See this accurately stated, and the descent of his family from the Earls of Northumberland clearly deduced in the Rev. Dr. Nash's excellent "
History of Worcestershire,” vol. ii. p. 318. The Doctor has subjoined a note, in which he says, “ The Editor hath seen, and carefully examined the proofs of all the particulars above-mentioned, now in the possession of the Reverend Thomas Percy.”
The same proofs I have also myself carefully examined, and have seen some additional proofs which have occured since the Doctor's book. was published; and both as a Lawyer accustomed to the consideration of evidence, and as a Genealogist versed in the study of pedigrees, I am fully satisfied. I cannot help observing, as a circumstance of no small moment, that in tracing the Bishop of Dromore's genealogy, essential aid was given by the late Elizabeth Duchess of Northumberland, Heiress of that illustrious House; a lady not only of high dignity of spirit, such as became her noble blood, but of excellent understanding and lively talents. With a fair pride I can boast of the honour of her Grace's correspondence, specimens of which adorn my archives. VOL. III.
cially as he thought meanly of his travels. He therefore opposed Johnson eagerly. JOHNSON. “ Pennant in what he has said of Alnwick, has done what he intended; he has made you very angry.” PERCY. “ He has said the garden is trim, which is representing it, like a citizen's parterre, when the truth is, there is a very large extent of fine turf and gravel walks.” JOHNSON. “ According to your own account, Sir, Pennant is right. It is trim. Here is grass cut close, and gravel rolled smooth. Is not that trim ?
The extent is nothing against that; a mile may be as trim as a square yard. Your extent puts me in mind of the citizen's enlarged dinner, two pieces of roast-beef, and two puddings. There is no variety, no mind exerted in laying out the ground, no trees.” PERCY. “ He pretends to give the natural history of Northumberland, and yet takes no notice of the immense number of trees planted there of late.” JOHNSON. " That, Sir, has nothing to do with the natural history: that is civil history. A man who gives the natural history of the oak, is not to tell how many oaks have been planted in this place or that. A man who gives the natural history of the cow, is not to tell how many cows are milked at Islington. The animal is the same whether milked in the Park or at Islington." PERCY. " Pennant does not describe well; a carrier who goes along the side of Lochlomond would describe it better." John
“ I think he describes very well.” 6 I travelled after him.” JOHNSON. 66 And I travelled after him.” PERCY. “ But, my good friend, you are short-sighted, and do not see so well as I do.” I wondered at Dr. Percy's venturing thus. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time: but inflammable particles were collecting for a cloud to burst. In a little while Dr. Percy said sometbi g more in disparagement of Pen
nant. JOHNSON. (pointedly,) " This is the resentment of a narrow mind, because he did not find every thing in Northumberland." ' PERCY. (feeling the stroke,) “ Sir, you may be as rude as you please.” JOHNSON. “ Hold, Sir! Don't talk of rudeness : remember, Sir, you told me, (puffing hard with passion struggling for a vent,) I was short-sighted. We have done with civi. lity. We are to be as rude as we please.” PERCY.
Upon my honour, Şir, I did not mean to be i incivil.” JOHNSON. “ I cannot say so, Sir; for I did mean to be uncivil, thinking you had been uncivil.” Dr. P'erey rose, ran up to him, and taking him by the hand, assui
ed him affectionately that his meaning had been misunder-* stood; upon which a reconciliation instantly took place. JOHNSON. “ My dear Sir, I am willing you shall hang Pennant.” PERCY. “
PERCY. “ (resuming the former subject) “ Pennant complains that the helmet is not hung out to invite to the hall of hospitality. Now I never heard that it was a custom to hang out a helmet."4 JOHNSON. “ Hang him up, hang him up.' BOSWELL. (humouring the joke,) “ Hang out his skull instead of a helmet, and you may drink ale out of it in your hall of Odin, as he is your enemy; that will be truly ancient. There will be · Northern Antiquities."JOHNSON. He's a Whig, Sir; a sad dog, (smiling at his own violent expressions, merely for political difference of opinion.)
4 [It certainly was a custom, as appears from the following passage in Perceforest, vol. p. 108:- “ fasoient mettre au plus hault de leur hostel un heaulme, en signe que tous les gentils hommes et gentilles femmes entrassent hardiment en leur hostel comme en leur propre,” &c. Kearney.]
[The author's second son, Mr. James Boswell, had noticed this passage in Perceforest, and suggested to me the same remark. Malone.) 3 The title of a book trànslated by Dr. Percy.
But he's the best traveller I ever read; he observes more things than any one else does.”
I could not help thinking that this was too high praise of a writer who traversed a wide extent of country in such haste, that he could put together only curt frittered fragments of his own, and afterwards procured supplemental intelligence from parochial ministers, and others not the best qualified or most impartial narrators, whose ungenerous prejudice against the house of Stuart glares in misrepresentation ; a writer, who at best treats merely of superficial objects, and shews no philosophical investigation of character and manners, such as Johnson has exhibited in his masterly “ Journey,” over part of the same ground; and who it should seem from a desire of ingratiating himself with the Scotch, has flattered the people of North-Britain so inordinately and with so little discrimination, that the judicious and candid amongst them must be disgusted, while they value more the plain, just, yet kindly report of Johnson.
Having impartially censured Mr. Pennant, as a Traveller in Scotland, let me allow him from authorities much better than mine, his deserved praise as an able Zoologist'; and let me also from my own understanding and feelings, acknowledge the merit of his “ LONDON,” which, though said to be not quite accurate in some particulars, is one of the most pleasing topographical performances that ever appeared in any language. Mr. Pennant, like his countrymen in general, has the true spirit of a Gentleman. As a proof of it, I shall quote from his “ LONDON,” the passage, in which he speaks of my illustrious friend. I must by no means omit Bolt-court, the long residence of Doctor SAMUEL JOHNSON, a man of the strongest natural abilities, great learning, a most retentive memory, of the deepest and most unaffected piety and morality, mingled with those